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Farming

WG unveils new farm support plans

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Brexit and Our Land: Welsh Government launches vital consultation

NEW proposals to support Welsh farmers after Brexit have been unveiled.

On Tuesday​ (Jul 10) the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths launched a consultation on a new Land Management Programme to support Welsh farmers post-Brexit, replacing the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The latest Welsh Government Brexit paper, Brexit and our Land, proposes two new large and flexible schemes to replace Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), Glastir and other parts of the Rural Development Programme.

The programme will consist of the following two schemes:

The Economic Resilience Scheme will provide targeted investment to land managers and their supply chains. It will provide investment to increase competitiveness and make improvements in resilience and productivity for high-quality food production.

The Public Goods Scheme will provide a new income stream to land managers delivering public goods from the land. It will enable them to help address challenges such as climate change mitigation, habitat loss, poor air and water quality.

All land managers will have the opportunity to benefit from the new schemes, not just those currently receiving CAP. However, people will need to do things differently in return for this support.

Cabinet Secretary Lesley Griffiths said: “Welsh land matters. Over 90% of Welsh land is in the hands of our farmers, foresters or other stewards of the landscape. How land is managed matters to us all and our land managers have the potential to produce outcomes of huge importance to Wales.

“Once we leave the EU, our access to markets and how we compete will change so maintaining the status quo is not an option. Exiting the EU means we have to do things differently and now is the time to prepare. We need to change how we support our farmers and agriculture sector to make them sustainable and able to thrive in a new trading environment. We have the chance to design a ‘Made in Wales’ system that works for Welsh farmers and our communities.

“The Programme marks a significant change. That is why we want to see a phased transition that balances time needed for change with the need to provide timely support.

“Our new programme aims to keep farmers farming on their land and will enable the sector to thrive in a post-Brexit world.”

No changes will be made to the existing BPS scheme in 2018 and 2019 and all current Glastir contracts will continue to be honoured. From 2020, work will begin to move to the new schemes, including a phased reduction in BPS as new schemes come on-stream. The ambition is to have the new schemes fully in place by 2025 using existing high-performing Rural Payments Wales systems.

The proposals will be subject to extensive consultation until October, working closely with key partners. A white paper setting out detailed proposals will be published next spring and we will publish a Bill before the end of this Assembly session to make provision for the reform. Funding from old schemes will not be withdrawn until new schemes are ready.

Currently, the Common Agricultural Policy provides around £300m a year of support for Welsh land managers. The Brexit and our Land paper reiterates the importance that Wales should not lose a penny from leaving the EU and calls on the UK Government to urgently confirm that Wales will maintain its current share of funding.

NFU Cymru is urging farmers across Wales to make their voices heard following the launch oft he consultation.

The Union said the consultation will be ‘the most significant and important Welsh Government consultation for a generation’.

NFU Cymru will be undertaking a comprehensive member engagement programme over the coming months, which includes a dedicated consultation seminar at the Royal Welsh Show and similar briefings at the summer county shows, as well as five regional roadshow events across Wales in September, all designed to ensure farmers are able to respond effectively to the proposals.

Speaking following the launch of the ‘Brexit and Our Land’ consultation, NFU Cymru President John Davies said: “NFU Cymru’s vision for a future Welsh agricultural policy is built firmly on three cornerstones: productivity, volatility and the environment. Although this consultation considers in detail productivity measures (economic resilience) and environment measures (public goods), it appears to suggest that volatility (stability) measures are not required. While we accept that Welsh Government is proposing a multi-year phased removal of the BPS, it is the firm belief of the Union that given the unprecedented weather events of the last year and the impact that has had on the industry, coupled with continued global political instability and the ongoing uncertainty over future trading relationships, the case for maintaining stability measures as a strong element of any future agricultural policy has, in fact, never been more compelling if we are to ensure the continued supply of safe, quality, affordable food.

“The case for farm support is a strong one. Just last year the NFU commissioned research which showed that for every £1 invested by government in agriculture the industry delivers a return of around £7.40 – that’s a £1.5 billion return on the £200m a year currently spent on direct payments in Wales. Add to this the wider environmental, cultural and social contribution of farming and there can be little doubt that the industry represents extremely good value for money. Removing direct payments would have a massive impact on the Welsh agricultural industry and because farming is so intrinsically linked to the well-being of Wales, it would consequently have a similarly detrimental effect on the people and communities of Wales. The Welsh Government’s continued stance that Wales should not lose a penny as a result of Brexit is, of course, to be commended.

“NFU Cymru welcomes the opportunity for the Welsh agricultural industry to take a closer look at Welsh Government’s thinking around the future of agricultural policy here in Wales. As a democratic organisation we will now begin an unprecedented level of engagement with our members and feed their views into our formal consultation response.

“Of course, this is not the first consultation on Brexit that NFU Cymru has undertaken; following the referendum vote just over two years ago NFU Cymru launched the biggest consultation in its history. Since that point NFU Cymru has formulated a set of key principles that we believe should form the foundations of a new domestic agricultural policy for a productive, profitable and progressive agricultural industry in Wales. As we begin to analyse and fully digest the consultation we will judge it against these key principles, which include:

  • A policy that underpins and secures the continued supply of safe, quality, traceable, affordable food for our nation, in the context of future global challenges, must be at the heart of any future agricultural policy.
  • All farmers must be fairly rewarded for the environmental/public goods they already deliver and will continue to deliver in future for society.
  • Policies must be simple to administer, easy to understand and target support at those active farmers who take the financial risks associated with food production.
  • Investment measures are required to ensure that farming businesses are well equipped to face the challenges and maximise the opportunities of a post-Brexit marketplace.
  • The regulatory regime must be proportionate and evidence-based and policies must be adequately funded to ensure that Welsh farming remains competitive with farmers in the UK, EU and globally.

“This is the most significant and important Welsh Government consultation for a generation and it is of paramount importance that farmers across Wales contribute their own views as part of the process – we need to ensure the industry’s voice is heard loud and clear.”

Commenting on the document, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “What is proposed would constitute the most radical change to our farm policies since 2005, and is a world away from the kind of policies previously in place from 1947 onwards.

“Given this, it is essential that farmers take the time to consider them over the coming weeks and months and respond to the consultation appropriately.”

The Welsh Government intends to organise a number of events across Wales later in the year during which farmers and others will be able to learn more about the proposals and ask questions, before the deadline at the end of October.

Mr Roberts said that as the FUW is a member of the Cabinet Secretary’s Roundtable group and sub groups, the proposals did not come as a surprise.

“We have numerous concerns about what is being proposed, and we have been vociferous in raising these.

“Amongst these are the fact that the EU have recently announced their commitment to providing the farmers against which we will compete with ongoing direct support at levels similar to those currently in place,” said Mr Roberts.

“We also need to be aware of policy proposals in other parts of the UK and make sure Welsh policies do not place our farmers at a disadvantage.”

The Scottish Government has recently reiterated its commitment to recognising topographical and other handicaps faced by Scottish farmers and providing support payments which recognise these.

“Given we have a similar proportion of disadvantaged land to Scotland, it would be unacceptable if our own government placed us at a disadvantage to our Scottish counterparts,” he said.

Mr Roberts welcomed the fact that the paper acknowledged the need for an appropriate transition period, and raised the question of what a transition might look like.

“The FUW has made it clear since the June 2016 EU Referendum that we need an appropriate and lengthy transition period to any new policy, and that the dangers of implementing a policy over just a few years would be significant.

“We have also highlighted the need to take policy developments in terms of the next EU agricultural policy and the progress of Brexit negotiations into account, rather than rushing forward with detailed proposals which might turn out to be completely inappropriate under the final Brexit agreement.”

Mr Roberts said that the position agreed by the UK Government’s Cabinet on Friday on how agricultural commodities might be traded with the EU made it clear why the FUW was right to do this.

“Above all else, the interests and future of our family farms should be the priority in terms of any future policy for Wales.”

“The FUW will be consulting with each of its twelve county branches over the coming months, and their views will be fully reflected in our response to the Welsh Government.”

Farming

Pembrokeshire farmers put spotlight on trade deals and climate change in discussions with local MP

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(left to right): FUW Pembrokeshire County Chairman Mike Kurtz, Stephen Crabb MP, FUW Pembrokeshire County Vice chairman Gerwyn Williams

FARMERS from Pembrokeshire have put the spotlight on industry concerns around the free trade deal with Australia and climate change when they met with local MP Stephen Crabb. Hosting the visit was Farmers’ Union of Wales Pembrokeshire County Vice chairman Gerwyn Williams, who farms at Upper Swmbarch, Letterston near Haverfordwest.

The farm extends to approximately 94 acres, with the majority of the land rented from Pembrokeshire County Council, and 3.5 acres owned. Upper Swmbarch is home to a 50 Suckler cow herd, made up of Limousin and British Blue cows. The calves are reared with some sold as stores, some fattened and some kept as replacements. Gerwyn Williams keeps a closed herd and uses AI. Tack sheep are kept on the land in the winter.  The land is mainly down to grass, but around 3 hectares of arable silage and 3 hectares of forage rape are grown each year to feed the livestock.

The farm has participated in the Glastir Small Grants scheme, which included planting new hedgerows in a number of locations across the farm and the holding has also previously participated in the Preseli ESA scheme, Tir Gofal and Glastir Entry.

Leading the discussions on the farm walk, Mr Williams said: “We are very concerned about the free trade deal with Australia. There will be major negative impacts for our farmers in Wales. It is absolutely essential that the UK Government ensures there are break clauses in the deal to allow for it to be reviewed. We need the UK Government to stand with the farming sector and help develop export opportunities for our farmers here at home.”

Union officials further highlighted concerns around beef prices and uncertainty within the industry as to what would happen as covid restrictions continue to be lifted and more people begin to eat out. Farmgate prices declined significantly during the early stages of the pandemic given the loss of demand from the UK foodservice sector for premium products such as steaks and cheese, and yet 12 months on, the sector is witnessing soaring lamb and beef prices following a shift in reliance on local food producers and UK sourcing.

(left to right):  FUW Pembrokeshire County Chairman Mike Kurtz, Stephen Crabb MP, FUW Pembrokeshire County Vice chairman Gerwyn Williams and FUW Deputy President ian Rickman

“While the domestic foodservice sector is evidently an essential outlet for Welsh produce, it is equally a particularly price sensitive outlet through which large volumes of foreign imports are sold. The FUW is concerned that if trade policies allow for cheap food that undermines our world-leading standards to be imported into the UK, the foodservice sector could become an even larger outlet for such food given that the transparency and pressure to source domestic produce is not applied to the same extent as it is with retailers,” added Gerwyn Williams. 

Mr Williams added that whilst the proportion of local produce procured by some public bodies has increased over recent years, there remain significant numbers of administrations which fail to support Welsh agriculture, choosing instead to accept produce from countries which often fail to meet the high production standards which are a requirement in Wales. 

“The nature of some procurement contracts means that what appears to be a commitment to procuring Welsh and British produce within procurement rules can be circumvented by carefully worded clauses.

“The impact of Covid-19 on food supply chains in many parts of the world has served as a stark reminder of the dangers of relying on food imports. Domestic policies and trade deals which undermine sustainable food produced by family farms in Wales subsequently place food security, food standards and therefore farmgate prices at risk. Governments must recognise the sheer importance of maintaining and supporting food production, security and standards,” he said.

Addressing concerns around climate change, Union officials  discussed how targets are set by the Government and how the UK and Welsh industry is portrayed negatively in the climate change debate. FUW Deputy President Ian Rickman said: “Many of the facts and figures used in the conversation around climate change relate to non-UK systems of production. 

“Here in Pembrokeshire ,and across Wales, farmers are adopting climate friendly systems of producing food and looking after the land for example through minimal or no till cropping, grass based production systems, planting of hedgerows, and habitat management. We can’t just get rid of the livestock, or drastically reduce it. Livestock play an essential role in looking after the land. Many habitats have to be grazed in order for them to flourish. 

“Our dairy industry is also doing their bit and many dairy farmers are already undertaking carbon footprint calculations and producing nutrient and biodiversity plans as part of their milk contracts. Farming must be seen as the solution to the climate problem and not its root cause.”

Given the many obstacles farmers now face, including the NVZ regulations and bovine TB, Union officials further stressed that recruiting young people into the agriculture sector and sourcing labour was becoming increasingly difficult.

FUW Pembrokeshire County Chairman Mike Kurtz added: “Recruitment seems to be a common problem in relation to vocational occupations that needs to be addressed. 

“I would like to thank Stephen Crabb for meeting with us again and discussing so many issues that trouble the industry. We will continue to work with the UK and Welsh Government to ensure we have thriving, sustainable family farms here in Wales for generations to come.”

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Farming

Economic value of red meat sector rises

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THE VALUE of the iconic beef, lamb and pork sectors to the Welsh economy rose in 2020, as consumers turned to local, sustainable, quality food during the COVID pandemic, according to analysis by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC).New figures from the Welsh Government ‘Aggregate Agricultural Output and Income’ report show that the total value of agricultural output in Wales for 2020 is projected to stand at £1.7billion – a 6.2% (or £99 million) increase on the provisional figure for 2019.


Cattle and sheep account for 44% of this total at £750million; the highest proportion recorded since 2016. The agricultural output value for Wales’s pig sector also increased (by 34.3% or £2 million) to a value of £8 million.
The figures reflect the strength of the livestock sector in Wales and sit in contrast to Total Income From Farming (TIFF) figures for the UK as a whole newly released by Defra. Although the TIFF figures are a different form of measuring farm production, the UK data concurs that the livestock sector has had a strong year, but in other parts of Britain, this was more than offset by poor harvests in the arable sector.


Demand for beef and lamb have been strong in the domestic retail market since the immediate aftermath of the first COVID lockdown in spring 2020. After initial market volatility, marketing campaigns by HCC and other bodies encouraged consumers to recreate restaurant meals at home.


Over the past 12 months, domestic retail sales of lamb and beef have trended consistently higher, with spending on lamb 20% higher than the previous year. Sales at independent high street butchers are also strong.


Research shows many demographic groups, including families with children, buying more beef and lamb than previously, and turning to quality home-grown produce.


HCC Data Analyst Glesni Phillips said, “The strong demand for red meat from the domestic consumer has helped drive market prices for beef and lamb at Welsh livestock markets in the second half of 2020 and into the early months of 2021.


“It’s no surprise, therefore, to see that the overall value of the industry is projected to have grown. We have seen inflation in the costs on farmers, which offset some of the gains from improved market price; however, it’s heartening to see consumers’ support for quality Welsh produce.“Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef remain key drivers of our rural economy, and given their excellent brand reputation, they act as flagship products for the growing Welsh food and drink sector.”Further analysis of the aggregate output and income figures for Welsh farms are available in HCC’s latest monthly market bulletin.

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Farming

Ian Rickman: 2021 is a critical year for Wales’ farming future

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THE INCREASINGLY negative narrative around livestock farming and its portrayed impact on the environment and climate change has led to farmers in Wales standing up to tell their stories and highlight the positive impact livestock farming has.


Through the Farmers’ Union of Wales’ campaign ‘Guardians of the Welsh Land’, farmers are addressing misleading claims by various groups about the role livestock farming plays in relation to climate change and the environment.  Launching the campaign, FUW Deputy President Ian Rickman said: “The FUW has consistently recognised the threat represented by climate change and the need to take action. This is clear from a cursory look at our manifestos and policy documents published over the past twenty years.

“We know that farming is already responsible for a critical carbon resource in soils, woodland and semi-natural habitats and I’m pleased to launch the FUW’s environment campaign – ‘Guardians of the Welsh Land’ from my home farm here in Carmarthenshire today. As farmers are the most trusted link in the supply chain, they are best placed to communicate their stories, helping to address consumer concerns and influencing political agendas. Members can also look forward to a variety of webinars over the coming months, which will focus on the different challenges ahead for the industry and how to overcome them.


“There is no question in our mind that we need to counteract the continuation by the anti-farming lobby of their campaign to vilify and belittle domestic food producers.  These attacks are corrosive and grossly misleading, negatively influencing consumer perception of the industry and influencing political agendas on a global scale.”
Mr Rickman added that 2021 is an important year for these types of conversations.

“Knocking on our door are the United Nations Food Systems Summit and COP26. The FUW has been engaging with these conversations at an international level and shares some concerns with other industries across the globe about the wider narrative and ambitions set out in inconspicuous looking documents. Plans, we and the general public don’t support.  Telling the positive story of the guardians of our Welsh land is now more important than ever,” he said.


Starting in the first week of June, the campaign introduces four farmers all of whom tell the story of how they are addressing environmental and climate change needs in their unique ways: Carmarthenshire organic sheep farmer Phil Jones, the Roberts family from Meirionnydd, Ceredigion dairy farmers Lyn and Lowri Thomas and FUW President Glyn Roberts who farms with his daughter Beca at Dylasau Uchaf in Snowdonia.
“The campaign will further highlight that Welsh farmers are rising to the challenge of improving soil health and increasing organic matter in soils, improvements which represent further opportunities for sequestering more carbon. These improvements, the campaign will highlight, are achieved through specific livestock grazing patterns and rest periods. The campaign is also clear that the correct options, guidance and rewards are required to encourage more farmers to adopt such systems,” said Mr Rickman.
Soil, the campaign will stress, is a long term investment and at present, around 410 million tonnes of carbon is stored in Welsh soils and 75,700 hectares of Wales’ woodland (25%) is on farmland, representing an important and growing carbon sink.
“As acknowledged in Natural Resources Wales’ State of Natural Resources Report, using land for food production is an essential part of natural resource use and management.  Whilst we acknowledge that  agricultural intensification has undeniably had negative impacts on some species and ecosystems, there is overwhelming evidence that other factors, including reductions in agricultural activity and afforestation, have also had severe negative impacts,” he added.

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